Prime Minister Shahid Khaqaan Abbasi has directed to close down power plants in Punjab due to smog. 7000 MW of power generation resources are offline which is causing 8-10 hours load shedding per day.
Lahore and various areas of Punjab have been enveloped in a thick cloud of smog that has endangered a lot of lives and is causing several health problems.
Punjab Protection of Environment Department’s Director Naseem-ur-Rehman said that section 144 had been enforced till December 16 which prohibits farmers from burning leftover waste of crops. Around 150 factories have been closed down due to a high level of emission of pollutants. He further added that FIRs will be registered against violators.
Higher Concentration of Toxic Gases
According to an expert on climate change, Dr Mehmood Khalid Qamar, fresh readings on toxic gases, obtained through the recently installed monitoring equipment, showed the level of carbon monoxide at 21.29 milligramme per metre (mpm) at The Mall, 17.52 mpm in Mohlanwal, and 6.94 mpm in Gulberg’s Liberty Market in Lahore, whereas the maximum permissible limit is 5 mpm.
Dust, the burning of crop waste, and emissions from factories and brick kilns are the cause of pollution in Pakistan, said Pakistani meteorologist Muhammad Hanif. He also added that it was expected to linger until the middle of the month and contribute to smog, a combination of smoke and fog. He advised people to wear face masks to protect themselves from respiratory ailments.
The number of registered vehicles has increased exponentially in Pakistan. The gases emitted by car are also a major cause of air pollution in Lahore and other cities.
One reason for Lahore's toxic air.
(source: Punjab Dev Stats) pic.twitter.com/ja20gBV2IC
— Umair Javed (@umairjav) November 5, 2017
A highway police official, said that 10 people have died and 25 have been injured in different traffic-related incidents due to poor visibility in various parts of Punjab. Authorities have advised people to limit road travel.
The motorway has been closed due to low visibility in some sections of the motorway which include Motorway M-2 Babu Sabu to Kot Momin, M-3 Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad, M-4 Faisalabad to Gojra.
A motorway police official told that motorway is accessible for people during the day when visibility increases. He further added that the visibility level decreases after sunset and motorways have to be closed.
Who’s to Blame?
Different officials have been playing the blame game saying that the burning of crops by farmers is the cause of smog. It is also claimed that emissions from coal-powered plants in India might be a cause for the recent increase in the concentration of smog.
The Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) have spotted 2,620 fire incidents in India meanwhile in Pakistan only 27 fire-related incidents were reported on November 2 which might be attributed to increase in pollutants.
Middle Eastern countries are hit by sand and dust storms which forms dust clouds said Asif Shuja a former DG of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Worsening Air Quality
The most recent World Health Organization data about the air quality is worrying too. According to the report, the air quality of Lahore is worse, with a yearly average of 68 ug/m3 of PM2.5, which corresponds to a 155- Unhealthy Air Quality Index. In the month of November, the air quality levels increase to 300+ which is hazardous and causes smog.
More Than a 100,000 Premature Deaths in 2015
A study by US-based Health Effects Institute (HEI) in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) on global air pollution claims that worsening air pollution in Pakistan had caused at least 135,000 premature deaths in 2015.
Southeast Asian countries where a household uses firewood, coal-fired power plants, transportation, emission of gases from factories and open burning of agricultural waste and garbage is the major cause of the increase in air pollution.
Pakistan has not seen active rainfall for almost two months, and precipitation in October was far below the country’s 32 mm average. The Met office fears that rainfall in November may be below 12mm average as well. High concentration of smog will remain until heavy rainfall reduces smog and air pollution level.
It is expected that November might see some rain soon, but unless the rainfall is heavy enough, the smog is not going anywhere.